TRENTON—As a result of state legal claims settled in the bankruptcy reorganization of the international mining and smelting firm ASARCO, LLC, more than $30 million will be paid to clean up formerly-owned ASARCO properties in New Jersey, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced yesterday.
The former ASARCO sites to be remediated are an approximately 100-acre property in Perth Amboy, Middlesex County and an approximately 7,000-acre property spanning parts of Manchester and Berkeley Townships, and Lakehurst borough, in Ocean County. The clean-ups will be handled by the current owners of the properties using funds made available as a result of the state’s claims against the ASARCO bankruptcy estate.
As trustee of New Jersey’s natural resources, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will also receive more than $1 million for natural resource damages at another ASARCO site in South Plainfield, Middlesex County.
In addition, another $250,000 will be paid by ASARCO for natural resource damages at the Perth Amboy property. As part of a settlement between ASARCO and DEP, $100,000 of the $250,000 paid for natural resource damages at the Perth Amboy site will be contributed to the cost of cleaning up that property.
“This is an important outcome for the people of New Jersey and for our environment,” said Milgram. “It is also a good example of using litigation to prevent New Jersey taxpayers from bearing the high cost of cleaning up contaminated industrial sites, and to hold companies that pollute accountable.”
ASARCO – the American Smelting and Refining Company – is a leading producer of copper and one of the largest nonferrous metal producers in the U.S. The company filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code in August 2005. It was the largest environmental bankruptcy in U.S. history and has resulted in the full payout, plus interest, on claims of $1.79 billion for environmental cleanup and restoration costs in 19 states.
Of the more than $30 million to be paid for remediation in New Jersey, $14.1 million will be used for cleanup of the former ASARCO industrial property in Ocean County contaminated by mining waste from ASARCO’s operations in the 1970s and ASARCO mined minerals from dredged sand at the Ocean County site from 1973 until 1982.
Contaminants on the property are primarily low-level, naturally-occurring radioactive minerals such as uranium and thorium, which were further concentrated as a result of mining operations and the stockpiling of mining waste. There are also contaminated soils on the property as a result of fuel oil spills.
Another $13.8 million from the bankruptcy settlement will be paid for remediation of the formerly-owned ASARCO property in Perth Amboy, and $2.3 million will be paid to cover past remediation costs.
The Perth Amboy property was the subject of an agreement between multiple landowners and the DEP. The property is currently part of a redevelopment project in Perth Amboy to revitalize approximately 170 acres once used by ASARCO for smelting operations and the deposit of slag. ASARCO ran a copper refining operation on the property from 1901 until 1976. Primary contaminants on site are arsenic, antimony and lead. The contamination has affected both soil and groundwater on the property.
The South Plainfield ASARCO property that resulted in payment of more than $1 million to the state in natural resource damages suffered groundwater contamination from such substances as arsenic, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene.
Deputy Attorneys General Franklin L. Widmann and Rachel Lehr, of the Division of Law’s Cost Recovery and Natural Resource Damages Section, handled the ASARCO matter on behalf of the state.
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